Future Ready Assessment: A head start towards personalized learning

Posted by Gabe Soumakian on July 19, 2016

The 7 gears of Future Ready Schools
The 7 gears of Future Ready schools

Often, we hear administrators tout their success with technology innovation by pointing to the number of 1-to-1 devices deployed in their schools.  At the same time, we hear it is “not about the technology” but rather it is changes in the teaching and learning process that transform our students as 21st century learners. Although there is a major shift toward digital transformation and innovation in our schools, administrators need to understand how to connect the dots and develop a comprehensive implementation plan that impacts student learning.

A good place to begin the process—or to validate that the district is headed in the right direction—is to have the leadership team collectively take the Future Ready (FR) assessment tool. The report from this tool will identify critical gaps as well as help guide you in the development of an effective implementation plan to fill those gaps.

This collaborative process of taking the FR assessment provides a professional learning opportunity to build the leadership capacity within your team. Your leadership team will benefit from this process and understand the major implementation shifts and design elements for appropriate technology solutions.  Through the assessment dashboard, your team will discover where your district is on the continuum for digital conversion, identify gaps, access strategies, and review your progress toward the development of a robust technical and human infrastructure.

What innovative leaders will learn from this process is the need to move beyond 21st century learning skills toward a personalized learning environment that prepares students for college, career, and life readiness.  Linking learning in the classroom to a real world setting makes the learning relevant and brings life to the curriculum so that students are engaged and feel connected to their future career paths.

Begin the process at www.FutureReady.org!  First, the district superintendent must take the Future Ready pledge.  Then, take the FR assessment.  Review the report as a team, then move your efforts to the next level by taking advantage of the resources available at the Future Ready Hub, especially the regional workshops.  Using this model will bring administrators in your region together to examine the data and connect your district with other leadership teams who can collectively move forward on the personalized learning continuum.


Being Future Ready

Posted by Gabe Soumakian on August 23, 2015

Future Ready Schools logoPresident Obama announced at the White House on November 19, 2014 that the Alliance for Excellent Education, would be leading 12 regional Future Ready Summits around the nation. Now almost 2,000 district superintendents have taken the Future Ready District Pledge. So much interest was generated that a 13th Future Ready Summit was added in Orange County, California, where 45 Districts and over 200 school administrators attended the two day dive into leadership, culture, systemic transformation and how to collaborate and redesign the learning experiences for all students.

The Challenge

The real challenge today is to prepare students to be college, career, and life ready as employers are experiencing a huge Skills Gap.  There are millions of jobs employers cannot fill because students and adults, even those who graduate from college, do not have the appropriate skills for STEM jobs. So how do we address this major global economic dilemma?

The Simon Sinek Ted Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” has over 23 million views to date. Sinek explains that great leaders start with the Why, then the How, and then the What to define the purpose for their existence and a possible solution to address the Skills Gap crisis. The Golden Circle, as Sinek describes in his message, is designed to work from the inside out, starting with the Why we support our students to be Future Ready.


The Oxnard Union High School District (OUHSD) has designed a Linked Learning framework that prepares students for college, career, and life readiness. Starting with “Why?” we believe in preparing students for their future with the mindset of taking ownership for their learning, much like an entrepreneur. Recognizing that not every student will start a business, nevertheless, students do need to think and act like  entrepreneurs. The Partnership for 21st Century skills recently introduced a roadmap that addresses these hard and soft skills. In addition, we partnered with our local Oxnard Chamber of Commerce last year for the inaugural Young Entrepreneur Academy, which is an initiative led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

College and career diagram

Bill Daggett from the International Center for Leadership in Education designed the Rigor and Relevance Framework 25 years ago to emphasize that students must be able to apply their knowledge in both real-world predictable and unpredictable settings. This framework aligns with the Smarter Balance Assessment which is designed to ensure students master deeper learning while they demonstrate application within the Knowledge Taxonomy and not simply know the right answer. Be mindful that entrepreneurs think differently, and do not see the world with just one right answer as most of us have been taught.


For students to demonstrate mastery of the new State Standards, they must be fully engaged with 21st Century learning strategies and technology tools.  The challenge for teachers is to develop their skill set to learn “How” to design the pedagogy with the 21st Century digital learning environment that keeps students connected and engaged in their learning. This is where our Learning Design Coaches step in to help support our teachers in using the appropriate technology tools with job-embedded professional learning.


Backward mapping this process, the State Standards are the “What” students need to know and be able to do. As schools move away from traditional textbooks and migrate toward the process of creating and curating digital content, students are able to access the content from our Learning Management System. This repository learning environment is a game changer that will assist to personalize learning.

As we advance with data and learning analytics, educators and administrators will continue to evolve the way instruction is delivered and align it with how students learn.  We recognize that personalized learning is in a state of flux and is not an exact science. This huge instructional shift will provide students with options by redesigning their personalized learning experience. Technology is one component that will enhance collaboration and allow teachers to learn from, and work with, each other during this transitional period.

One educational option to engage students and produce deeper learning is through the Linked Learning Academy model supported by the National Academy Foundation (NAF). This Foundation provides rigorous and relevant real-world learning experiences. OUHSD has expanded from 12 to 22 academies in 2015-2016 aligned with business sectors. A Business Intermediary Model with over 400 businesses partnerships provides work-based learning opportunities such as job shadowing and internships. We are excited about the new NAF Branding “Be Future Ready” that addresses the STEM Skills Gap employers are demanding, while also promoting an entrepreneurial spirit.

For more information about the Linked Learning Academy Model download the brochure and visit the Academy website.





A Learning Management System as a Game Changer

Posted by Gabe Soumakian on January 26, 2014

Picture of chess pieces with words Game CHANGERTransitioning to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and preparing for the Smarter Balanced Assessment will require acquisition and application of 21st century skills by both teachers and students. As instructional technology and education leaders, it is our responsibility to promote a culture of innovation and collaboration among our staff, as well as to create the right systems drivers for teachers to share and build on their depth of knowledge during the transition towards the CCSS.

There are many online tools to enhance collaboration for social interaction and many tools to host online document and file storage that support an environment for teaching and learning. The challenge for a whole system approach is to organize the documents and PLC collaboration discussions that allow multiple teachers at multiple grade levels, building levels, and across district the level, to effectively communicate during their journey of CCSS implementation. For small schools and small districts, creating this culture of collaboration using freeware software such as Edmodo and other social media products works wells and may meet their needs. However, in larger districts, it becomes a challenge to manage the conversations, threaded discussions, and support collaborative environments that promote a cross-disciplinary and integrated approach that the CCSS require.

Once teachers have developed their curriculum, lessons, activities, assessments, and electronic learning resources, the decision then becomes where to host the materials to allow multiple layers of access among teachers and students. As schools move from hard copy textbooks to interactive ebooks, they will require a complex Learning Management System (LMS) to host these new online learning materials that provide multiple sources for collaboration housed within one product.

Initial investment will pay off in long run

An LMS system may require a costly initial investment, that districts may fund through the CA state’s new Common Core funding. The investment and ongoing costs will be offset in the long run by the value of a comprehensive LMS as a necessary tool for successful long term implementation of CCSS and project based learning. An advanced LMS has a bridge to a district student information system (SIS) that connects courses with students and teachers in a virtual learning space. Transitioning towards the use of an LMS for teaching and learning becomes one vehicle toward promoting a blended learning environment and supports the practice of 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. An LMS system, when used appropriately and effectively, becomes a whole systems approach to changing how teachers and students interact, supporting personalized learning- anytime with any device.

Now the challenge for superintendents and  boards will be to design a system to ensure equitable access to the LMS with mobile devices and equitable student accessibility to the LMS from home. When education achieves this major milestone, we will truly see a major transformation in education and the closing of the achievement gap. Let’s make this happen!




Redesigning How the Job Gets Done

Posted by Gabe Soumakian on November 8, 2010

It’s hitting us all like a ton of bricks.  Our state is in a financial mess.  The 2010 Budget is put together with smoke and mirrors.  The technology in our districts is aging yet no funds are in sight for replacement. NCLB accountability is getting more challenging as the required proficiency levels increase.  Predictions indicate a staggering number of superintendents and principals will retire in 2011.  We have already eliminated as many positions as we can.  Those of us who remain must adapt to the new normal and, at the same time, somehow promote a culture of innovation that will help us survive with limited resources.

Clearly, we can’t continue to do our work the same way we we’ve done it in the past.  We need some new ideas!  Here are some concepts I’ve come across that hold a lot of promise as we struggle to redesign the future of work, work processes, and learn to manage our resources differently through the greatest era of change in our lifetime.

  • Content, Process, and Relationship.  Content is what you want to achieve.  Process is how and why you do the work or achieve your goal. Relationship is about the networking and the people skills for getting the work done.  Most people usually know the what, but struggle with the how and why.  Success depends on getting all three right.
  • Adaptive Leadership.  Clearly defined problems with known solutions can be tackled through the current structures and systems in an organization.  However when challenges arise that require a new mindset and new ways of thinking and working, an organization needs adaptive leadership that mobilizes people and units that frequently have different needs, priorities and perspectives toward new ways of working and ways of thinking.
  • Culture of Change and Innovation.  No lesser an institution than the U.S. Army is talking “adapt or die.”  We will do well to consider these very intense but great lessons regarding process versus product: “Process is important, but excessive focus on process versus product significantly impedes innovation.”
  • Student-Centric Education.  Clay Christensen, in his book Disrupting Class, challenges our thinking for how technology, learning, and assessment will change how schools are organized and how student-centric education will be the future.
  • Twenty Percent Time.   Google allows its employee to use one day a week to innovate and create their own projects or applications related to Google’s overall mission.  Many of Google’s new products have come from employees experimenting during this twenty percent time.  What if we were to allow our students and teachers to use one day a week to be innovative and creative within the desired curriculum.  What would learning in a classroom look like?
  • Creativity is Extraordinary.  Dewitt Jones defines creativity as “the ability to look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary.”  Finding the first right answer is just doing your job; looking for the extraordinary redefines your purpose and mission through creativity.
  • Knowledge Sharing, Social Networking and Collaboration.  The maxim, “To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research,” has been attributed to Wilson Mizner.  You can’t be an expert on everything,  so set up a network to share and exchange ideas.  Post a problem and you’ll be surprised how quickly your colleagues provide ideas and solutions.  ACSA Region XV Human Resources Council uses AirSet for collaboration. Admin 2.0 is designed by TICAL especially for administrators.   Social bookmarking sites such as Diigo and Delicious are also great tools for sharing and for researching topics previously reviewed using specific research terms.
  • Cloud Computing.  Get away from your hard drive and desktop and venture into mobile computing by living in the clouds.  Cloud computing allows you to access your files, process data, and use applications from anywhere, anytime, anyplace.  This will be the next generation of instructional technology that will be driven by its cost effectiveness and minimal IT support.
  • Print on Demand.   Are you still printing a stack of documents and keeping them in a file? Print on demand allows you to lower your cost by printing what you need when you need it.  By the way, do you really need to print it?  Save or scan your documents as pdf’s, then bookmark them in a web folder for access anywhere by anyone to whom you give permission.

Now’s your chance!  What would you add to the list?  We all learn from each other, so we want to hear your ideas and solutions.